Usually, I am happy to ignore most TV ads. We record what we want to watch and watch it when we want to watch it, so we often fast-forward through the commercials. This is a little more difficult on our streaming services and on Youtube, as they are packed with ads, not all of them have the feature to click through them, so you have to endure them in order to watch the content you want.
There is an advertisement currently running in New Zealand, both on broadcast TV and on online platforms, for a famous fast-food chicken chain. The advert has got under my skin in a way that annoys me more than it should.
It is one of a series of commercials, where someone makes a mistake, and says “OK” as a sort of drawn-out quizzical response, to which the other person responds “FC”. The implication is that buying a bucket of fried chicken will absolve the crisis and everyone can move on in blissful happiness.
Perhaps this is a commercial series peculiar to New Zealand and our specific vernacular. It may not work in other countries where the nuances of Kiwi English are not so easily understood.
In one of the ads, a guy is getting his hair cut with clippers by a female friend. He asks her if she knows what she is doing when she slips with the clippers and takes an unintended chunk out of his hair. He reaches up to feel the damage and says “OK” to which she replies “FC” and in the next scene, they are enjoying a meal of fried chicken as if nothing has happened.
In the ad that annoys me, a couple and their two children are heading to the beach. Behind them is a sign reading “Nudist Beach”. As they realise the environment that they have entered, the parents cover their children's eyes as the mother says “OK” to which the father replies “FC”. Next, we see the family tucking into a bucket of fried chicken, all happy and smiling in typical advertising family bliss.
My discomfort with the ad is that the response by the parents reinforces the negative stereotypes about simple nudity.
By shielding the eyes of the children the message is clear that the naked human body is something to be avoided.
While the ad may not breach the advertising standards authority guidelines in that advertisements must not ridicule any person or group of people, it does play to the common misconception that society needs to be shielded from the naked human body.
I understand that perhaps I am in a minority, but New Zealand has ratified the UN convention on human rights which states "the human body has an inherent dignity". I believe that this ad flies in the face of that right and implies that a naked body is shameful.
While steaming quietly in my indignant outrage, muttering under my breath about the poor messaging imparted by the commercial, and doing my best impression of a grumpy middle-aged man, I came across an online discussion about the ad. Overwhelmingly the responses were that the ad was problematic and that it promoted or encouraged body shame.
I added my concerns to the list of comments, suggesting that
If the goal is to teach children to be insecure and ashamed of their bodies then this ad hits the spot.
One contributor challenged me by asking
how does it do that?
My response was
By suggesting that children need to be shielded from simple nudity. Covering their eyes and preventing them from seeing normal natural bodies, they are being taught that nudity is wrong, something to be ashamed of and something they need to be protected from. I would be interested to hear why you think that the ad teaches them anything else.
To be fair to the other chap, he accepted my assertion and thanked me for expanding on my reasoning.
A case might be made that the advertisers are trying to use humour to sell their product, but the attempt reinforces existing negative stereotypes about naturism and nudism.
One of the things that I have been thinking about recently is that words matter. While the intention may have been to illustrate an awkward situation that can be rectified by eating deep-fried fast food, the not-so-subtle message is that as a society we are ok teaching kids that they should be ashamed of their bodies.
Ok, this ad on its own is not responsible for the high instances of low self-esteem and body issues in our young people, but it is part of the multitude of constant messages people are exposed to, reminding them that society is judgemental about body image.
OK FC, you can do better.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
The marketing business has always used sex to sell, and as sex and nudity are so closely associated in the public mindset we get dragged down by the undertow. Advertising is a hard, blunt instrument that has to time or space for the nuanced differences. Occasionally we see nakedness used sort of wholesomely - a car breakdown service TV advert a few years back (UK) featured an engineer being called out to a naturist beach, the whole thing being treated matter-of-factly even though camera angles were suitably discreet for “family viewing”.
Usually, of course, the implied nudity is presented with sexual overtones - supermodels emerging from the bath, that sort of thing. Interestingly, though, the ad industry has drawn lines round the body as to what is nude and what isn’t - male and female groins and female breasts are nude so must be covered, but bare buttocks are allowed, so obviously are not considered nudity.
Yet another reason not too watch free-to-air TV